Saturday, 28 June 2014

Creepers. When RL and blogging collide.

Thatssss a very nice fashion show you have there...
I have just realised that I didn't put any of my 2013 blog pics up on Flickr (like this one), and that I have somehow attracted a small following, including people I don't know, which is both gratifying and slightly scary. I am going to rectify the situation and repost some of last year's pics on Flickr. Now is also the time for me to re-evaluate what I'm doing with Flickr and this blog.

If you hadn't already realised, I'm totally clueless on the whole Flickr/Blogspot scene, not a fashionista or 'professional blogger', and have zero time or energy - what with caring for a small boy with Aspergers and ADHD while personally suffering from Fibromyalgia - to look outside my goldfish bubble-bowl of Shiny! Buy! Photo! Blog! Rinse & Repeat. 

I honestly think it's some kind of displacement addiction, or possibly therapy, because for the last 6 years (ever since my son was born) we've been moving from house to house and the bulk of our belongings have been held in storage, so buying pretty things on SL has substituted the ability to wear jewellery, look around at pictures or ornaments, read books, or watch DVDs IRL. That is changing now, because we bought our own house (our very own, very first mortgage!) back in October, and now my fantastic dad has fixed up our loft (attic) so we can store stuff in it, and he has brought everything over, and the house currently looks something like a junkyard until we can get it all up into said loft on an electric hoist. Then the theory is that we'll unpack a couple of boxes a day, or week, until it's all sorted. My fantastic mum has just bought us a dishwasher - and I think whoever invented those things, indeed all large kitchen appliances, should receive the Nobel prize - so now I'll actually have some time and energy to spare for unpacking which previously would have been spent on washing up. I can only do so many things a day before crippling exhaustion sets in.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry I don't reciprocate very much by tracking your blogs/Flickr, though I do take a look when I can, and that I don't socialise. It's not because I don't care, or think your posts aren't worth the effort; quite the opposite! I just literally can't manage to do both. I had this problem with LiveJournal too, prior to finding SL, and abandoned the thing in the end because I couldn't see the point of writing if I couldn't maintain a circle of friends by reading their posts. I suspect the same is true of this blog, so my main goal is just to record the piles of stuff I inject into my hoard before they are swallowed up and lost to all but LL server memory (and to make pretty pictures). But writing about them is also a lot of work and Flickr is a lot easier in that regard, because there isn't really room to write, you just post pics! So I -might- move over to Flickr entirely. I'm not sure yet. I want to keep it for the best pics, rather than showcasing everything, and put links to fuller blogposts with all the credits, for those who are interested, or just so I know what I've got.

And in the meantime, I'm going to post some of my 2013 pictures up on Flickr because I rather suspect people are going there for the immediate visuals and that nobody ever reads all the verbal whitewash I put in this blog anyhow };=8) Go on, prove me wrong with a raft of comments!

~ : ~

Thursday, 26 June 2014

For the HOARD! ~ Finesmith ~ Bathing Beauty I

More Finesmith, this one 'Danit', a mesh swimsuit in yellow with a texture change jewellery set to go with it; again using my new gold merrow avatar (because, seaside!). Not really much to say for this post, just pictures of me enjoying myself in the sun - and I have to say, I am LOVING how good my feet look now in all these shots :D The teeth could fit a little better though - I think when I changed shapes to fit the suit, there was a slight misalignment. I'll have to check the shape I wore for those and see what to tweak.


Leaping into a rubber ring floaty at my neighbours' on the Foxkin Estates. They buzzed my castle in an army helicopter when I first arrived, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of them since. Maybe I can entice them out by playing on their parcel *g*.

Lookit dat pout!

I have these surfboards too, from What Next, great low-prim beach props. The beach is at Envious, a shopping sim I found through Implings (of all places!) and not Finesmith.

Formal beach attire. Dragons wear jewellery everywhere.

The jewellery looks great with a little glow (menu driven) and you can choose from a variety of different gem colours.

Chillin' in the sunshine.

Continuing to look good in a side shot lying down; I noticed some animations on loungers (elsewhere) were pushing my abdomen up and out of the mesh, which was not pretty, and with a suit in this style you couldn't alpha it out. Wearers of split-front mesh, beware of awkward animations!

If I sound less than usually enthusiastic in this post, it's because I didn't realise the jewellery was colour-change and so I bought this set for the yellow jewels; there was another swimsuit I would have preferred, had I known, although yellow is pretty too. And it wasn't very expensive. It certainly looks good on me!

~ : ~

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

For the HOARD! ~ Finesmith ~ Top to Toe

Going back to early May purchases, and a pair of mesh boots from Finesmith which I'd been pining over since they first came out (they can now only be found on the marketplace). I also ventured into the store after some pieces to complete a jewellery set, and inevitably came away with a couple more items than I had intended, including the Bar Tiara already shown on my teeth post - and taking pride of (second) place on my new Flickr icon. 

Boots are generally worn with trousers, an unusual form of dress for me, so I had to play around to get an outfit I was happy with. I just happened to be wearing an avatar I made for the Colour Challenge as I tried the boots on, and continued to tinker until it was transformed; same species, but a wilder, sassier, more modern look. And a colour change. Don't ask how I fit those big clawed feet into the boots...

Merrow ~ Spring Fresh
Finesmith 'Fresh' Boots (spring)
Finesmith 'Lika' Porphyra jewellery
Silky drape top by Lillith Anatine

This gorgeous mesh top was made by my friend Lily. It is tintable, and makes use of the new materials texturing so that you can set it to shine with different coloured highlights. It is a backless halter-top so there is plenty of room for wings, spines or other spinal adornments.

Additional Items:
BySnow Sea Sprite skin (starfish) with anglerfish lure & body spines
Rue Horn'd/Diver: Zexmenia
*TSM* Laurel of Water (pearls) & Swansong S.E. Elemental Earth eyes
Schadenfreude Mer-Elf ears
ContraptioN Carnivorous Jaw
Grendel's Children Uthgolian Dragon head fins
Sweet Antidote makeup 'deep blue sea' (gold)
Livid Nosferatu's (sculpted) claws; store gift
Diva Designs gold trim jeans (from 2007)
My own belly claw-ring
L&E solar & lunar armbands
~ : ~

Sunday, 22 June 2014

For the HOARD! ~ Ode to Cernunnos

I like masks. And skulls. And horns. And antlers. (Those who know me, know this well.) And so these recent additions to my hoard go well together.

Illusions 'Eikthirnir' Deer Skull Mask & Antlers
A truly gorgeous piece in two parts, mesh with multiple textures to choose from and tintable pattern layers over the top (which I made to glow a tiny bit). I just... I... wow. Pictured using the windlight setting from the previous Illusions sim, Carnivale (she moved in May). It's basically just a re-tint of the atmospheric RGB settings. I found this piece on Siyu's blog. The name belongs to the Norse stag who nibbled at the branches of the great tree of life, Yggdrasil, and means 'Old Thorny'. For this shot I used my first Colour Challenge outfit, Champagne, but with different hair that wouldn't get in the way.

Illusions Dreamcatcher 'Rusa' Antlers
Another Illusions antler set, one piece this time but you can toggle the dreamcatcher netting and feathers on or off, and again, there are lots of textures. The feathers and dangling strings are flexi. I'm wearing it with my Hunter Green outfit from the Colour Challenge, because this outfit suits a shaman, as does the dreamcatcher. In that post, I told the story of how I was challenged by, and eventually befriended, a unicorn; he came home with me, and features in my recent teeth post, and can be glimpsed here in the background as he frolics in my wildflower meadow.

ContraptioN 'Walton's Mask'
This was one of those items I'd been eyeing up for a while but never quite had the Lindens to spend on. I grabbed it along with the teeth when I was visiting ContraptioN, ostensibly to get the music box I mentioned in my Castle post. Stores are very dangerous places for me! Here I'm wearing it with the PurpleMoon outfit 'La Mort Douce', a Halloween special from some years ago, and the jewellery set 'Selva in the Moonlight', also by PurpleMoon, picked up on Friday from the Fashion For Life event which I scurried through on the last day, holding blinkers firmly to my eyes. (That wasn't all I got, but I'll blog the other items later.)

Walton's Mask & Selva Jewellery in close-up
The mask reminds me of the beaked leather head-dresses worn by plague doctors in the Middle Ages, with beautiful metallic scroll-work. He sells them in a range of different colours; naturally I chose gold. The hair was an archaeological find from my inventory; Deadkitties 'Krabat' (the men's prize; I have a large head!) from the 2009 (!) 'Fairytales' Macabre Hunt. It has lots of colour change feathers stuck in it. My gold skin, as in the previous posts, is 'Aquamer-Andri' from The Plastik, one of the best golden (and scaly) skins I have come across, and a gift from the Devil himself :o No really, my friend who role-plays Lucifer, but is in reality a sweetheart. The tree behind me is from Forest Floor Creations; I use both hers and Nadine Reverie's trees on my parcel as they are beautiful and realistic but low prim. My pose is from Juicy, angel ready for take-off.

Implings 'Dark Guardian' Statue
I spotted this handsome fellow while popping in for an item or two in the sales over the weekend at Implings and Angelic Designs (I'll blog the rest later). There are some things which just scream 'You need me!' and this was one of them. He is mesh, stands 3m tall and takes up only 16 prims, at an astonishingly low price (no he wasn't on sale). He stands guarding the entrance to the cave below my castle, a cave which houses a very special waterfall, hiding the Holy Grail itself (something I made for a fun hunt to celebrate when I first bought my castle). 

Although Amy (of Implings) has named him dark, I think of him much more as a nature spirit than a demon, a forest deity like Herne or Pan. Not gentle; he is holding the severed spine and (hidden behind me) skull of some hapless hunter or trapper who has provoked his wrath; but nor is he evil, for he embodies and protects the natural world, which humanity is always inclined to despoil. You can just about see the yellow of a tiny fairy creature nestling in a knothole on his right breast (not part of the statue; it's another recent purchase I will blog later) to show his protective nature. As a horned forest god, my dark guardian stands as patron to a large proportion of my avatars, and to my RL environmental leanings.

~ : ~

For the HOARD! ~ FEETS!!!

I am, at long last, the proud and very happy possessor of a pair of SLink mesh enhancement feet with claw and pawpad addon :D Messing up the purchase timescale somewhat, I only just bought these - but they fit well in a series of bodyparts posts, and are something I have had high on my shopping radar for a long time. When I was last in SL over a year ago, SLink had mesh feet for humans but had not updated the Exotix range to have the enhancement nail polish HUD capability - I don't really know why - so I held off from buying them, as they are expensive and I was pretty happy with my sculpty feet. But now they have been updated and are fully compatible with other creator brands, so I can haz matching hand and foot nail polish. Yay!

See how good they look! Sleek and smooth and pretty!
Pictured on my new, low prim mesh log swing from We're CLOSED and wearing a ZOZ nail polish for SLink enhancement hands and feet :) I nipped into Fashion for Life on the very last day, to pick up the PurpleMoon exclusive outfit, and had a bit of a wander around; I was happily ignoring all the stores until I stumbled on the nail polishes. I'll showcase them properly when I put up my PM Time Traveller.

With the cute little pawpads!
Yes I know, the swing pose is bending one ankle a little awkwardly, not the fault of the feet! They are a little tricky to set up, especially when - like me - you have an unusually coloured skin, but I am used to fiddling around with colour sliders, and although it wasn't stated anywhere in the instructions, I discovered that these feet have the same /13 skin RGB chat command as the sculpts. The HUD doesn't have any custom save slots but with the chat command, you can easily keep a notecard of presets to use, so I'll only have to tint them once for each skin. You also have to turn the custom nails off before adding the clawpads, or the two nail sets clash, and I had to put on a tiny bit of weight (!) before the feet fit perfectly; but once all these things are sorted, the feet are good to go.

I also made a couple of simple anklets to hide the texture seam where the feet meet the shin. You can't really avoid a slight discrepancy here, as the feet and skin use different textures and no amount of colour matching will be exact, but since SL is SLink crazy, a lot of skin designers offer a skin matching HUD that links with the feet, so humans with popular skins can probably get a seamless join. So popular are the SLink feet, many shoe designers have taken to making open shoes to fit various models of the feet - though most of them, being heels, require the raised 'mid' or 'high' feet, and I bought 'flat' because these feet are for when I'm not wearing shoes (duh!) and my nicest shoes all have fake feet inside anyway. I also didn't bother with the textured sock as it didn't counter the join, but these could be good for strongly patterned skins, where some alpha layering gradually merges into the skin tone.

:: Sculpted Exotix Feet for Comparison ::

I wore these for a long time and was very happy with them; but the top of the foot bulges rather untidily above the ankle, and the toes look a bit as though they were re-attached after an unpleasant accident involving a scythe. They look great underneath though! Also of course they didn't have enhancement nail polish like the mesh range, so I couldn't use a range of nail polishes, only the basic incorporated colours. And of course they are about a million times better looking than the default bodyshape feet, below. Ugh, creepy mutant monstrosities :( What WERE LL thinking?!

Poor naked feets... thank goodness for alpha masks!
~ :: ~

Thursday, 19 June 2014

For the HOARD! ~ Gnice Gnashers!

After my hiatus there were a few things on my shopping wishlist (an ever expanding and unfulfillable Grail, with items still on it from 2006) that I remembered vividly enough to look up, hoping they would still be available. My ContraptioN musical box was one such. Inevitably, as I browsed around the store, I discovered More New Things I wanted. Believe it or not, I don't actually like shopping. I find too many things I want to buy, and can't, and this is frustrating. Usually I will go after what I want in advance, having seen it somewhere else or on a group notice, and will attempt not to window shop. But after a year's absence, one can't not look around at all the new goodies one's favourite creators have come up with...

So it turns out that ContraptioN has made a slightly different version of the Shark Grin, a toothsome smile I used in my Tea Green post for the colour challenge. The Shark Grin is great but... a bit much for daily use. The Carnivorous Jaw is more adjustable and has better alpha masks, so that it can be quite subtle, until you get really close...

See? My unicorn still likes me!

Without all the windlight, for a clearer shot.

... Or of course if you smile. And then this happens. I had to promise my 6 year old that I wouldn't do it again *eg*.

Smile! It's dinner time!
Also wearing the Finesmith 'Bar' Tiara in champagne which is another recent purchase. I get a lot of jewellery from Finesmith and will be blogging more later.

I really love the polished wet sheen to these teeth, it makes them look very realistic. They are mesh, but come in 3 movable sections, so you can fit the upper and lower dentures better, and there is also a tongue and palate so you can laugh without having a hollow head. There are a couple of other 'expressions' which - for me personally - don't look quite so good as 'subtle' and 'smile', also a bloody just-fed look; and if you don't wear the alpha mask at all, the teeth fit so well that just two fangs stick out like a vampire's, and don't look at all out of the ordinary (for SL). I have to say these are my all-time favourite teeth and I will be wearing them pretty much constantly; goodbye to my old and much-loved XCite fangs! Well I might keep those for the actual vampire avatars. A dragon needs a whole set of nasty, sharp, pointy teeth..!

~ : ~

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

For the HOARD! ~ One Tail to Rule Them All!

I've been in-world again more than a month already and I have been so busy I haven't got around to posting up my new purchases - but purchases there have been a-plenty, as I have a LL subscription and the pocket money stacked up during my absence! I had two choices; I could cash out the money and regain my entire sub for the year - or I could go on a major shopping spree.


Well really, what would you expect? ;) The very first thing I bought, I wanted the instant I met AutumnFox, the Foxkin Rentals estate manager, to sort out setting up my land. She had an awesome new tail; admittedly more furry than dragon, but a demi-fae (I'm half phouka) has many tricks up its *ahem*... trousers!

One Tail to Rule Them All!
The NV Fluffy Tail, by Nadi Vemo (the title joke is hers) is an animated, shape shifting, texturable mesh tail. It is hugely customisable, with a very user-friendly HUD and toggleable script settings for use in high lag areas. It can be cat-like, fox-like, bunny-like or - the style I immediately went for - raptor-like! Bearing in mind that raptors are now known to have been feathered, so their tails were (are) plumed. I am going to ask if she could make a no-fluff option in a future update, so you could have a naked tail with all the animation for the true scalies. I have tried to do the tail justice in my photographs, but really it has to be seen live for the incredible, smooth animation to be appreciated, and there is a video link on the marketplace which will show you this and run through the different tail shapes, if you are interested.

For now, here is a stop-motion array of stills, attempting to show the varied motion and fluidity of the tail. It is set against the beautiful yellow roses of my [Angelic Designs] Quiet Moments Garden Arbor, which actually features more flower types and colours than a garden catalogue so would suit all tastes. I am wearing the outfit I used for my Colour Challenge 50: Gold post, without the jewellery.

And finally, another set I just couldn't resist putting up, though please be warned, this image is rather large when you click on it (1600 x 565) as I have a wide-screen monitor.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dragon Castle Revival - Summer 2014!

As I said in my previous post, I am back! - and the first thing I had to do was find land to rent to put out my castle. The lady I rented from last year has sadly packed up and left, so I searched and searched among the reasonable-rate parcels, trying to find one where my castle would be accepted. The problem, as I found with my first landlord, is that the building is quite tall - nearly, but not quite, as long as one side of a 4096 sqm plot, if you include the turrets - and so it does tend to dominate a smaller parcel and its neighbours. However much I would love to, I really cannot afford a larger parcel, but happily I thought of Foxkin Rentals, which have been around since forever - I met one of my best friends there many years ago (and as it turns out, I had forgotten, she is still on their admin list) - and are furry and dragon friendly; so I was quite hopeful they at least would appreciate my castle. I double-checked with the estate manager and she loved it! So I moved right on in. Although I do say so myself, I think my castle is a scenic asset to the island, and doesn't overpower the neighbours at all. 

Note that the boundary to my parcel is very close to the castle itself, you can see the left boundary dike running between the trees. I put the castle as far back on the plot as possible, with a sheer drop to the water (sim edge) behind, but it runs all the way up to the edge of the little lake you can see at the front here.
[The Dragon's Castle by TheMaxx Dragonash]

Here is a view from the other side, with windlight atmospheric settings changed to give this beautiful golden light, a simple toggling of the RGB settings just as you would tint a texture.

I haven't changed too much of the original build, but the top room - my bedroom - is the exception. This is the original decor. Fine if you like skulls, and I'm not generally averse, but it's a bit dingy and attic-dungeonesque. And this picture is artificially brightened.

So, a bit of texture re-application and some furnishings and voila! A bright, welcoming room fit for a dragon queen to sleep in. I've cammed to the left a bit with this shot, to show the bookshelf; you can just see the door out onto the roof-space, which I retextured as with the rest of the room. My bed - and a dragon tapestry - are up against the big stone 'chimney' where the dragon throne used to be.
[Bed, shelves & rug from Concrete Flowers] 

Moving down a floor, we come to the main hall of the castle, a large open area good for dancing or feasting (the banqueting table to the right produces a magnificent 3 course meal of temp-rezzed prims) or simply cuddling up by the fire to chat with friends. I haven't changed any of the original structural textures (the dragon painting is mine) but I did do a bit of spring cleaning, dusting and polishing to brighten the place up a bit. (Original textures were dulled with a grey tint.) Behind the camera is a little alcove, below:
[Angelic Designs M'Lady Dining Table; Relic 'Warsong Collection' Lovers' Chair]

Where I put the dragon throne, somewhat modified, particularly the statue, which I love but is very primmy. I tore it down to a few essential parts, and now it is more a dragon abstract than a life-like statue, but still makes quite a statement - especially now it is situated in the main room of the castle. I don't really understand why it was hidden away upstairs before, in the dusty attic!

Exiting the big double doors at the end of the main hall, you come to this sort of vestibule which isn't really large enough to use as a proper room, but needed something to give it purpose. So I put a tree in it. Well it's clearly a delicate tree, being all snuggled up in a wool cosy, and doubtless benefits from being inside. I think I was influenced by the painted tree in Ghormenghast; indeed the whole castle has something of a Ghormenghast feel to it.
[New Trails lighted tree with knitted veil]

Past the tree-room is a long gallery which of course now houses my finest works of art. I couldn't really get a camera angle to do it justice and there are far more than the two paintings shown here. This shot also shows one of my recent purchases, tucked into a corner - a music box from ContraptioN, which plays a haunting melody; the Cordwainer's Son; composed originally and exclusively for this piece. I find when I listen to it, I can't easily break away, it is so mesmerising. It was one of the first things I bought after settling my castle, and I was so glad to find the store still had it.
[MiaSnow bookcase with rats; 19MC armchairs; ContraptioN music box]

Out down a steep staircase and into the guard-room, I suppose, containing the front and rear portcullised gates. I have put my dragon-bed here, a comfortable nest of gold coins fused together by heat into one solid mass (so thieves needn't get too excited). You can see a shaft of sunlight coming through a skylight just above camera, in fact a textured prim which I left here; I removed all the others, along with a few oddments such as window frames and candles, to save prims. I think windlight makes such effects redundant now.

The 'ground' floor bailey of the castle - in fact it is perched on a rocky escarpment so not at parcel ground level - has both a stable and a fountain. Naturally a dragon cannot fit in a humanoid bath tub, so I have made the fountain area into my bathroom, with the addition of some pretty candles, bubble-bath and floating lilies. Seen through the intruding branches of the wisteria bush outside (you can see that in the first photograph) which make an appealing, fragrant curtain.

I haven't done anything with the stables, this is how they come. They house my unicorn, Earl, who is currently preferring the summer weather out in the meadow (pics to come).

I have made the castle very homely but for the first time I made a really big effort on the grounds; with such success that I have been spending all my time outside! I will post photos of the castle environs next, to showcase some of the (many) things I have bought since my return. This concludes the post for the castle interior - rather long, but I wanted to show it off for those who cannot visit.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Second Life Meme: 20 Questions on What's It All About?

Hello everyone, I'm baaaaaaack in Second Life after an 11 month hiatus :o I honestly didn't realise I'd been away so long. I was missing friends, and my hoard, and my castle though, so I snuck back in last week ;)

Before I start posting the pretty again, I saw this question meme on my SLister Rudh's blog and I thought it would be a good way to reintroduce myself - and perhaps even surprise a few friends! The meme is based on the sort of questions you tend to exchange when first meeting someone in SL - at least that's the theory, I've always found first questions running along the lines of 'Wow you look awesome, where can I get that?' - and the astute among you may, like me, notice that there are in fact only 18 questions. I don't know why, but we'll run with it. My goodness but this took longer than I expected, and is rather a long interview! I like how these questions really made me think though, and some of my answers were revealing even to myself, so even if nobody else reads this, it was worth doing.

20 (18) Questions: What It's All About for Me!

"When and how did you discover Second Life?"

I'm 8 years old now, having started back in 2006 - the venerable days before mesh, sculpts, or even flexis! You would not believe the hair and skirts back then... I'm actually a couple of months older than my profile suggests, as I first joined SL with a roleplay character, without the shadow of a clue what I was getting into.  My RP partner found it and suggested we move there for some extra dimensionality to our purely chat-based exchanges. Unfortunately for him, although SL was just as great for the RP as he had suggested, I quickly realised its potential for other things. I made a new paid account, for myself, made lots of new friends, and was soon spending more time on SL as Fledge than as Shep (more about him later). We had a bit of a falling out over that, but we're friends again now, I am glad to say - and as I owe my entire SL existence to him, I just want to say a big 'thank you!' to Shep's twin, Jon*. I'm sorry the RP didn't work out, but you got a better deal in the end, I'd say ;)

*Yes, we both played the same character, and there is a HUGE volume of backstory to that. We called it Mirrorverse. One of them, and I forget which now, got stuck in a parallel dimension and either decided to stay, or couldn't find out how to leave. It was probably mine, and all that silly dragon's fault!

"Did you know about virtual worlds before or was this your first experience with them?"

How does one define a 'virtual world'? I'm pretty sure SL was the first of its type, and I'd never heard of it before Jon introduced me. But computer games, just like fiction in novels or films or on TV, place the user into a tightly defined alternative environment - each with its own unique paradigm - so in a sense any game is a virtual world, and I have played them ever since I was a kid and my mum brought home her school's Acorn computer with educational games to play over the holidays. Ahh, fond memories of Granny's Garden... 

But the first virtual social platform I ever encountered was back in my uni days when I played on a chat-based MUD (multi-user dungeon) my (now) husband helped to program - before the world wide web even existed! (No I'm not that old, shut up!) After I graduated (in 1995... really, shut up ;) I joined a social and roleplaying community of fellow dragons on Alfandria (a .net forum) where we would create our own worlds purely through text based chat; and after that, the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) world of Everquest, which was a sort of precursor to World of Warcraft. It was hugely enjoyable but by this time I was heavily involved with the fanfiction community (which is how I got into roleplay) and so I diverged into SL rather than MMORPG gaming. SL is more similar in concept to RP forums than to games, though like the latter it has rich graphic content, because you have no set goals or path of experience; you make your own entertainment, just as in real life. 

Ironically, my husband started playing WoW around the same time I found SL, and it has taken me nearly until now to get into WoW myself. At first I was too absorbed in SL, then I had a baby to occupy every waking moment of my time. Now, I somehow have to find the time to juggle them both - along with now 6 year old child who is well into computer games himself!

"Has Second Life met your expectations?"

I didn't really have any expectations when I started, but I would say that it regularly exceeds whatever expectations I have come to form. There really is almost no limit to what you can do on SL, the programming, resources and creative genius of its residents are constantly evolving, and I am continually coming across places, builds, people and events which blow my mind. This is what keeps me coming back.

"If you could teleport back to the first ten minutes of your avatar’s slife, what would you tell yourself?"

This is a hard one to answer, as I don't have any regrets and I believe the present is built upon all of one's experiences, so to change them with foreknowledge could be dangerous. I suppose I would deal with myself the way I treat any newbie whom I meet; I would be helpful, encouraging, patient, and treat myself to a few free goodies. My formative months in SL were filled with the kindness of strangers in this manner, several of whom became (and still are) fast friends. I suppose I also ought to tell myself not to sweat the inevitable downs as the ups make it all worthwhile, but who listens to sage advice like that? ;)

"How long did it take you to master avatar flying and driving vehicles in-world?"

Avatar flying, really not that long, as I was already familiar with computer games and the varied controls you use to get around in those (sometimes also by flying). Vehicles are something else. The SL physics system makes getting about like driving a tank, while drunk. I have one very memorable and hilarious experience of giving a friend a ride on my saddled horse avatar (saddles are basically vehicles) - unlike dragon flight, which is difficult enough, cantering around at ground level is distinctly hazardous. I ended up dragging my poor rider through bushes, fences and innocent picnickers, laughing so hard I lost the slight control I'd had in the first place. I may be 8 years old but I'm still not very proficient with vehicles, and when I bought the Metallicar for my alt, (now) Dean Winchester of Supernatural, I managed to drive it up a tree! I am very proud of myself for managing to take it around a Linden race track last year, though I wouldn't have broken any speed records, but when I repeated the feat with a passenger, I managed to crash it into a bridge! And so, neatly, to the next question...

"Do you have a mystery alt?"

It's not really a mystery, to my friends, but as I said in Q1, I actually started SL on a different account, which I have kept as an alt ever since. He began life as an incarnation of Major John Sheppard from the scifi TV show Stargate: Atlantis. I stopped playing with him when his twin and I parted ways, but when I got hooked on the series Supernatural a year or so later, I just had to make Dean Winchester, even if I had nobody to RP with. My alt has therefore transformed from a galaxy-hopping military flyboy into a moody monster hunter who hates flying. Oh and I have another alt which I don't do much with, but she stands for my hubbie (who never has and likely never will set foot in SL). She represents his main WoW character, so she's a bear, and we are partnered.

"Is your SL avatar a reflection of you, or someone you wished you could be?"

Now there's a question for the psychiatrist's couch! *g* I have an RP alt so it goes without saying that my main is the real me, at least personality-wise. Like most furries and scalies in SL, I embody myself outwardly the way I identify myself, which is impossible IRL. Although I'm actually a dragon, however, and very proud of my Trueform which I put together out of two different Isle of Wyrms dragon avatars, I also discovered in SL a hidden penchant for dressing up which never really manifested even as a child. Aside from possessing a set of off-the-shelf avatars that would do justice to any SFF props department, I love dresses, shoes, jewellery, skins, hair, and all the non-human additional body parts like horns, wings and tails. You can't use these on a large, prim, quadrupedal avatar (I did mod a crown to my head, and it has gone no-copy as a result; something to do with the scripts) and although you could use most of them on a humanoid dragon, I never found one which really felt like 'me'; and you still couldn't use hair, skins or shoes! (Hair? On a reptilian species? I know people do, but it always looks distinctly odd to me.) So I suppose, like most people, my SL avatar is the fantasy me, looking as I wish without the encumbrances of RL matter and physics; I wouldn't want to be this way for real, as I'd be a total freak - unless we could all set free our inner selves, the way the citizens of the Polity are able to in Neal Asher's excellent scifi books.

My SLister and I actually coined a bit of a backstory to explain both my more-than-usually humanoid appearance and how we could be related. We share a Fae mother, a shape-shifting Phouka, who had one child by a dragon and another by a mortal human. Rudh is therefore half-fae and I'm half-fae, half-dragon, and got the shape-shifting bug in spades. We both inherited something of our mother's Unseelie character, expressed in our tendency to dress up as the Undead more often than just around Hallowe'en! *g*

My shape is my own, by the way. I made it when I first started this account (having had some, not quite so successful, practice with Shep) and I'm very proud of it. I have hardly changed it in all 8 years; originally it was my RL height, and for the longest time, I stubbornly refused to adapt, even though the majority of SL avatars are giants by comparison (go on, check - you can easily make a ruler out of a single prim - most people probably don't even realise how ridiculously tall they are!) and my dragon Trueform is similarly small by the common standard, using only the Wyrmlings, though I am not in any sense a Wyrmling by seniority - who says dragons have to be so big?! Anyway, eventually I gave up in frustration at having to alter so many skirts so they wouldn't drag under the ground, and increased my height a little. I suppose with mesh I could go back now, but it doesn't really make much difference. I'm still small next to most of my friends, and I'm used to it.

"Is there an individual you met in SL that inspired you in your RL? How?"

I have an enormous amount of admiration and respect for the creators in SL; I did try building early on, before sculpts put system prims onto the back shelf, but I wasn't very good at it and decided to confine my efforts to modding other people's stuff. I am a shameless consumer, stuffing my inventory with other people's works of art. I couldn't fill a sim with all my things, let alone my little 4080 sqm rented parcel! We are all influenced by our friends and heroes, but I can't think of anyone who has consciously inspired me to be different than I am; I don't have the skill to aspire to be like those I most admire, and I am too independent to follow the dictates of fashion or social conformity. Besides, the things I do in SL are just impossible IRL, due to the constraints of realism, time and money.

"Do you feel it is easier to create stronger bonds/relationships with people you meet inworld as opposed to the real world?"

I think the answer to this has to be yes, since my closest friends are all from SL (though I met a few before, they were still online friendships, and they subsequently came to SL where I have interacted with them the most). I have met a few of my best friends IRL but we don't get to hang out much, we all live too far apart (most in other countries!) so we have kept in touch by chat and email and Facebook when we haven't managed to cross paths in SL.

I don't really know why this should be the case, except that SL has two advantages over RL for forming friendships. Firstly, it is easier to find shared activities you both enjoy; and secondly, there is a much larger pool of people, from all over the world, whom you are likely to meet. You can attend a dance class IRL, for example, but only once a week, and only the same, select few people will attend. (I'm discounting clubs as they are more for finding boy/girlfriends than platonic friends.) In SL, you can go dancing every night, at a different venue, and the noise doesn't preclude you from striking up a conversation, as you can conduct that in private IM. And of course there are many more events and activities, all free, all only a teleport click away, and attended by a wider range of people than you are ever likely to bump into on the high street, unless you live in a big city. So it's not really surprising that such a social platform facilitates friendships; and while not all of them last, just as in RL, you are bound to find a few of those 'golden friends, precious and rare'.

There is a third factor at work, which is unique to SL, something all SL residents have probably experienced. Time seems to work differently inworld, probably because it's so easy to jump about from one activity to another, so that you can experience a lifetime of shared enjoyment with friends in just a few months or years, without all the boring in-between bits of getting there and saving up the money and having to find somewhere to eat and so on. SL is, or can be, concentrated, minute-to-minute fun and freedom; and it's those shared memories which help to cement the bonds of friendship. It's no different to real life, it's just far more accessible.

"Did you ever imagine or believe people could fall in love with someone they never met before Second Life?"

Actually, one of my husband's friends at uni met a girl through a MUD. They were in different countries, but they fell in love and got married, and this was all before the world wide web! My SLister, subsequently, has found and married her man in SL, and now lives with him abroad. Several of my friends have established long-term, loving relationships with SL partners they may not even have met IRL. Love is like friendship; it takes seed in shared similarities, and doesn't necessarily require a physical connection; though I do believe that it's harder to maintain close bonds without any RL contact at all. Fortunately for me, I met my man at college, and have never had to go looking for a partner, either online or off.

"How has your perspective of dating changed (or not) since you started playing second life?"

I think the previous two questions answer this one, but I don't have too much direct experience. I did engage in a couple of flirtatious, roleplay romances - at the time, I was so used to roleplaying, I just transferred it to my own 'character' without really considering the consequences. It soon became obvious that things were becoming too realistic to be roleplay, and I called off the relationships before things went too far, since I was (and am) happily married with no intention of cheating. I think the lesson for us all to heed is that whether roleplaying or not, all characters on SL belong to real, living people with feelings and desires, and we can grow close without meaning to or realising. Dating is a serious business, not a game, and those who go into it without serious intentions are liable to end up hurting someone.

"How has your perspective of employment changed (or not) since you started playing second life?"

SL has always been a platform for fun for me, and there is no way I want to be tied down with responsibilities. You can manage very well with very little money, and it's only if you want to afford a large plot of land that you have to start thinking of serious finance. There are some, a very few, people who manage to make enough money in SL to fund themselves IRL; most make just enough to pay for a sim and the resources they need to work in SL. I think the majority of creators are working mainly out of love for their craft. Of course, there are wonderful things around every corner, and while some of the best things are free, many are not; if, like me, you find it impossible to resist the lure of the pretty, you either have to find the finances IRL or get a SL job. I am very thankful that I can balance comfortably on minimal expenditure; my account is old enough that I make my sub fees back in L$ pocket money each week, and except for the occasional high-expense purchase - and parcel rental - I don't have to buy Lindens. In my whole 8 years, I have only put in extra money for a handful of items: my castle, Dean's car, a gift for Rudh, a set of monster skins. If I had to work to pay for these things, I wouldn't enjoy SL any more. I wouldn't have the time.

"Name three things in both your lives that overlap each other significantly."

My friends. My interests, but that's self-evident; a love of fantasy and dragons isn't going to be confined to just one area of my life, as though neatly packaged away in a box I can tuck back on its shelf when I press the little X in the corner of the screen. And, erm, I'm struggling. Nope, can't think of a third thing. I go to SL to do things I can't IRL, it's an escapist world of entertainment - wait, is this blog one of them? I'm writing it IRL but it's mostly about SL, and I know I have a couple of non-SL readers so yay! That's #3 :)

"If you could live your life more immersively in a virtual world, would you? (Kind of like the Matrix)"

At first I thought this question meant would you exchange RL for living in a virtual world full-time, and that could surely only apply to the most desolate and bed-ridden - I admit that at times when pain and exhaustion from my condition are driving me crazy, I could wish for a total escape from real life's downside, but virtual worlds can't offer some of the best experiences in life - physical contact being the most important, but also the sights, sounds and scents of the things around us, especially nature, which even the best graphics and most ingenious creators can't reproduce.

Then I thought perhaps the question just meant, if you could experience SL in a full-surround, sensory environment, would you? And my answer would be, heck yes! I'll pass on going too realistic though. There are plenty of scifi stories to demonstrate how easily one could become lost to the virtual, if it were immersive enough, to the detriment of one's physical body. Some addicts even find that now, playing on computers longer than is healthy for them. And currently, I can't even play with headphones unless my son is in bed, as it switches you off too much to what's going on around you and hampers RL interaction. One thing I do find is how easy it is to lose track of time, when doing anything on the computer, not just playing games. I'm sure this effect would be even greater in a fully immersive world, and you'd need some kind of alarm system to forcibly pull you out!

"How do you think behavior changes for people if they’re inworld vs in real world? Why do you think that is?" 

People can't physically hurt you in SL, and they don't know who you are to call the police or a lawyer. That makes it much easier for people to act like jerks, with no consequences. I don't think everyone behaves this way; but those who are inclined to be jerks or bullies IRL will find SL a playground for their antisocial behaviour. There's also a tendency, ironic since those engaging in it are themselves playing virtual characters, for people to forget that they are interacting with real people who have feelings that can be hurt. Then again, RL is full of enough insensitivity, maybe that's just people, in and out of SL. To counterbalance the trolls, there are also plenty of kind and generous people, who go out of their way to be nice rather than unpleasant. I suspect, on the whole, that people don't behave too much differently inworld than they do IRL, although John Gabriel's (from Penny-Arcade) Greater Internet F***wad Theory probably still applies; less in changing people's essential personality than by allowing them to be less inhibited in their rudeness than they can be face-to-face. 

One kind of behaviour that always astonishes me, as someone who strives to look unusual and unique, is how many people fail to understand why others would want to look 'different'. It's Second Life! Its very existence is the potential and opportunity for doing things differently, for being 'all you can be' rather than all the real world allows. Vanishingly few people on SL make avatars identical to their RL selves; even the most 'normal', human avatars on SL are as beautiful as their players can make them, striving to approach ideals, whether personal or fashionable, they cannot - or would not - meet IRL. I think anyone who comes to a platform like this and fails to appreciate the imagination and effort others have gone to, however strange they may seem to your personal tastes, and worse, calls them out on it, is singularly narrow minded, hypocritical and pathetic. And missing out on the best SL can offer.

"How has second life consumerism changed your perception of spending habits, the value of money, the need to be “bleeding edge” with fashion?"

I don't think any of my perceptions have changed; but the great thing about SL is that things are more affordable than IRL. This is because once a designer has created the blueprint, there is no further effort involved in making more; and there are fewer resources required than for material goods, again just what is needed (sculpt maps, textures, scripts, out-world design programs) for the initial design. I can shop in SL and buy all kinds of frivolous, luxury items just because they are pretty, which is something I can't do IRL; and maybe it fills that hole which some people do by maxing out their credit cards. I do limit myself though, only buying what I can afford; occasionally I borrow from friends but I always pay them back within the next week or so, and only on a very few occasions have I wanted something so expensive I've had to buy Lindens to get it (my castle; Dean's car; a set of Hallowe'en skins at a time when non-human skins were not so common as they are now). As for fashion - I've never cared about that, either IRL or in SL, I just buy what I like and dress how I like; though I am much more flamboyant in SL, as my purse and my avatar can carry it off!

"Name three skills you attribute to having learned or honed in second life alone."

Seriously, except for scripters and builders, how many skills can one learn from SL? I enjoy photography, and have probably improved my skills in that area, but it's not exclusive to SL. I can build a little, though I'm much better at tinkering, modding other people's items to suit me, and I've learned how to mess about with texture settings to get them to match up on adjacent prims, but I'm still pretty much an amateur. The one thing which I have gained from SL, which carries over to RL, is an appreciation for colour, after the blogging challenge I took part in over 2012. I have always tended to ignore my less favourite colours, and particularly ones I didn't like, but the challenge showed me that I can make fantastic outfits with any hue. Two of my least favourite colours turned into two of my favourite challenge outfits, pink and pistachio! I would never have believed, before 2012, that I could like that colour... and though I still won't deliberately choose it for myself, I can now appreciate it in another person's colour scheme.

"If your grand kids googled your Second Life Avatar’s name, would they be intrigued, disgusted, proud or something else?"

I would hope they would be intrigued, and I'd also hope they would admire my Colour Challenge outfits, which were a lot of effort, albeit fun to make. I certainly have no reason to keep my avatar secret, and my 6 year old son has seen plenty of her. In fact he sometimes objects to things I do with her, such as setting her on fire as a Phoenix, or the full smile of my new scary set of teeth. I do have a bit of a dark side and have been known to make a few avatars more at home in Hallowe'en than Christmas Land ;) - I'd be careful of my grand-kids' sensitivities before showing them those, but there's nothing to object to in principle!

So there you have it, nearly 20 questions all about me and the personal whys and wherefores of my Second Life. Thank you for reading this far, I know I'm not very succinct but the questions really made me think! I'll try to keep things (much) shorter for the pretty posts to follow.